Skip to content

BLOG – LMB alumnae share their experiences & careers advice at annual Cambridge AWiSE event




The LMB and the Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering (AWiSE) recently held the thirteenth annual “What Next for Your Career?” event. LMB staff and visitors from across Cambridge gathered in the Max Perutz Lecture Theatre to listen to three speakers, Emma Gleave, Jenny Gallop, and Rebecca Aarons, describe life after a PhD and share advice on career development.

While the three speakers had previously worked at the LMB concurrently, they went on to pursue rewarding careers in different directions. All three spoke about the significance of a good work-life balance, finding a job tailored to one’s needs and skills, while emphasising the importance of building a diverse network of contacts to explore various job opportunities and get valuable insights about application processes.

Emma completed her PhD in Andrew Carter’s group in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division in 2014 and moved to Meindert Lamer’s group within the same division for her first postdoctoral position until 2017. She said that at the end of her postdoc, she had found it helpful to delineate her likes and dislikes within her work profile in order to identify the kind of career she would want. This helped her prune her choices down to a career route that focused more on practical lab work. Thereafter, she joined AstraZeneca as a senior scientist in 2017. Emma had one key piece of advice – make sure you start building a network of contacts now so that it is available when needed in the future. Stay optimistic, and even if you don’t get a specific job that you applied for, you might be offered a different but similar position.

Jenny left the LMB in 2006 after her PhD in Harvey McMahon’s group in the Neurobiology Division, after which she worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School until 2011. Since then, she has been a group leader at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge. She advised that you should aim to become a group leader if you have scientific problems to solve and for the sheer joy of discovery. Though these positions can be quite competitive, you should not let that be a deterrent. On modern work-life balance, Jenny said that combining work and family is made easier by recent changes made by funding bodies and by using extended support and flexible working from workplaces. She emphasised the benefit of being aware of the policies of funding bodies and institutions.

Rebecca joined the LMB in 2013 as a governance assistant after completing a PhD at the University of Manchester, a postdoc at McGill University, Montreal, and following several years at the Wellcome Trust as a scientific programme officer and science portfolio advisor. She left the LMB in 2016 to join the University of Cambridge as a research strategy analyst. To those considering a transition from research to other careers, Rebecca said that it is advisable to analyse how skills gained in academia could apply to other roles and highlight use of administrative skills in applications. She also described her experience in balancing work life with family and pointed out that negotiating flexibility or part-time work is often possible at the job offer stage and should definitely be pursued.

After the talks, there was a networking opportunity during which attendees interacted with the speakers and each other to discover more about various potential career paths that can follow a PhD in the life sciences.

Click here for the original Blog Post on the MRC-LMB website. 

Image credit: MRC-LMB

Apply now for Hutzero the leading early-stage entrepreneur bootcamp!

Have you ever considered starting your own business? Do you have an idea for a brilliant new cyber security product? Then HutZero 5 is for you! Apply now to join the FREE action-packed week to transform your cyber idea into a viable start-up. More info…

BLOG – Time: You Can’t Own it or Keep it, But You Can Sure Spend It and Use It

By Dr Helena Kim

Most bright and ambitious people set high goals, and the recent workshop by Dr Marloes Tijssen titled “Time Management with a Touch of Coaching” helped the delegates to get more time efficient to reach their high goals. It was a great turn out with accomplished delegates from the university, local labs, corporate industry, and general members of our community. Imagine the lively discussion in this brain powered room generated by Marloes’ useful tools and tips.  Let me summarise this informative evening.

We began with the end in mind using an illustration tool that helped us envision where we want to be and where we are now. The next question was, “How do you see yourself getting there?” The workshop provided not just how, but what to use, that will help us be more organised and to get there more thoughtfully.

Read more…


Chocolate Lock-In at Hotel Chocolat – 8th and 18th of July

Cambridge AWiSE invites you to a private Chocolate Lock-In at Hotel Chocolat

8 July 2019, 6:15 pm or 18 July 2019, 6:15 pm

Location: Hotel Chocolat, Lion Yard (43 Lion Yard, Cambridge CB2 3NA)

You will be greeted with a glass of Prosecco or non-alcoholic drink before mingling with other guests over a chocolate tasting (5 chocolates each). More info…

BLOG – Men as allies – Approaching equality together

By Cedric Ghevaert

Attending an event addressing “gender equality” or lack thereof seems to be a given these days, but attending one where men are described as “allies” refreshingly bridges the gap between two sides who are too often being described “in conflict”. A discussion by a very balanced panel (men/women, experienced grey hair/young and on a learning curve, established/still breaking through) made time fly past quicker than one would expect. But that would be down to the passion, which was equally shared between all panellists and the fact that the engaged audience counted men and women and included people with even more grey hair than I have!

One of the issue that was brought up is that the challenges of this issue is created by how careers have changed, where in academia and STEMM careers we now reach stability well after our life responsibilities have become serious: mortgages, relationships, children. Trying to manage the career breakthrough when these responsibilities become all-important has added pressure, which unfortunately, still weighs on women more than men.

It would be easy to say that “things are changing”, but that is a cop out statement: bullying of women (and men) who may approach their life choices, priorities or career and staff management in a novel or simply different way is still pervasive and effected by the new generation as much as the old. What has changed is the number of people who don’t accept the status quo. But institutions can also play a role: promote people who are good leaders as well as decent scientists! The promotion application does not contain any item about how we manage a meeting…yet as a senior staff member, isn’t that what we spend 75% of our time doing? I heard the following remark: “We should fix the system, not women”. And can we replace ‘the system’ in that sentence by ‘the university code of conduct’?

The thing that struck me last night was a statement by one of the panellists: “It is easier for men to do something than finding out what to do”. Even for the most motivated of men, changing the culture, even in the microcosm of one’s own little work group, triggers often a “saviour” behaviour where we think we know best what to do. I raised that question last night and one of the panellist’s answered: “ask the question rather than come up with the answer, get people to spell out their own strengths, appetites and drivers”. It may seem obvious…but it is not always the natural reflex.

Dr Cedric Ghevaert at the event with his two daughters

Institutions set out big policies, but often just basic decent human behaviour is a much more straightforward way to deal with issues on a daily basis. It is about simply being interested and involved in how other people tick. There was a lot of talk about shared parental leave. It is clear that, from a personal point of view, being more involved with the running of the house and looking after my girls, has made me understand the challenges of running both a career and personal time. It has also given the opportunity to my wife to have time for her own career. As well as head space and energy! But shared parental leave is still less than accepted these days (apparently only 5% take up). Financial incentives as well as practical incentives are absent whilst they are in place in other countries. It may sound counter intuitive these days, but let’s look beyond the borders and see what works somewhere else!

And a last point for whoever thought the above is just “sissy stuff” or that last night’s discussion was not worth attending: diversity is strength, the most resilient systems are those that have enough inner diversity to adapt and grow through any challenge and have long-term sustainability. If you don’t promote and champion differences at some point, you and your work will be a dying breed.

%d bloggers like this: